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The Moneyist: ‘I wonder if he married me for monetary reasons’: I want to buy a home without putting my husband of 7 years on the deed

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Dear Quentin,

I decided to sell my home of 17 years to take a job in another state. At that time, I told my husband of seven years that I wanted a divorce. He knew about the job offer.  His secrets and lies “by omission” were the reasons I wanted a divorce. 

Later, he came to me and said he wanted half of the equity because he helped pay the mortgage and did some work at my rental property. 

My brother and I inherited the property upon my mother passing seven years before my husband and I got married (dad had passed several years prior). Needless to say, I said no to his request. That would have been half of $154,000.

Was I wrong to deny him half?

We decided to work on the marriage. I sold the house and the equity is in my personal bank account. I have since put a deposit (from equity) on a new home in a new state. I asked him if he is okay with the title to just be in my name, and he said yes. 

My understanding is that he will have to sign a quitclaim deed prior to closing. Plus, his credit is not so good. He pays debt late. We tried to purchase a house twice together and both times it was his late payments that caused the purchase to fall through and my income alone was not enough.


‘We tried to purchase a house twice together and both times it was his late payments that caused the purchase to fall through and my income alone was not enough.’

With my new job, my income is enough to purchase a house by myself. It is important to me to hold the title because he is not contributing any money to the purchase and the fact that he has a house in a different state (not where we moved from) that he purchased years before we dated/married and he has chosen not to sell or rent. 

Plus, he told me that his house was not considered “our” house because I never made a mortgage payment on it. I really do not know why he is holding on to it. I can only speculate that he wants to leave it to his adult kids who are always milking him for money or for a safe haven if we divorce. I have kids, too: two adult boys who are stable and homeowners.

Am I selfish to not put him on the title?

My husband is retired with a good “for life” pension and Social Security. He has money; just bad credit. I work and can draw Social Security next year when I turn 65.

He keeps financial things from me. He opened a different bank account because I would not take my name off of the joint account per his request, but he kept his name on the joint account. 

Neither one of us uses the joint account unless it is to send money to each other for a bill. Sometimes I wonder if he married me for monetary reasons. He wanted half from the sale of the house I inherited from my mother and/or refunded money spent 15 years ago for fixing up my rental.

Married to Secrets and Lies

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at [email protected], and follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter.

Dear Married,

If you did not commingle your finances on the house you inherited from your mother, you had every right to sell it and keep the money, as long as you did not put that money in a joint bank account. Was your husband paying rent or contributing to the mortgage? The latter can alter the status of your home. The best time to consult a lawyer is today.

It’s all too easy for separate property to become marital property. “Let’s say a party owns a home prior to getting married. However, once married, the mortgage on that home is paid using both parties’ income. This may be considered commingling, and that home might be converted into marital property,” according to the Mansouri Law Offices in Beverly Hills, Calif.

“An inheritance is normally considered separate property,” it adds. “However, if the inheritance is placed in a joint bank account shared by both spouses, it might then be considered a marital asset. So, how can spouses avoid commingling property? One way is to state whose property is whose in a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement.”

Given that you have children from previous relationships, your turbulent marital issues, your husband’s record of holding a low credit score and what you perceive as his furtive financial accounting, I agree that it would be better to keep your respective properties separate. After all, he appears to have managed that with his own property, and has his eye on your own.

What steps you take from this moment on will depend on whether you live in a community property or equitable distribution state. A quitclaim may not be enough to secure a new house purchase. A lawyer will decide on whether you need a postnuptial agreement and/or what funds you can use for such a purchase in the event that you do eventually divorce. 

Tread carefully. The “what’s yours is ours and what’s mine is mine” approach is warning enough.

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Check out the Moneyist private Facebook group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

The Moneyist regrets he cannot reply to questions individually.

More from Quentin Fottrell:

The Moneyist: I found money stashed in my late father’s house. One brother owes me money, and the other stole from my mother. What should I do?

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The Moneyist: My parents will leave their house to my troubled brother. They want to withhold his inheritance for utilities. Should I give it to him anyway?

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